Azerbaijan State Economic University

Azerbaijan State Economic University

ASEU Sign

Not to make anyone jealous, but I think I have one of the best schools any Fulbright ETA can ask for. First, just look at it:

Walking on the perimeter, this is the front of the Main Building, right by all the fun things in Baku.

Walking on the perimeter, this is the front of the Main Building, right by all the fun things in Baku.

Courtyard during an assembly on the first day of classes.

Courtyard during an assembly on the first day of classes.

ASEU 2

 

ASEU 13

ASEU 7

 

ASEU actually has three or four campuses throughout the city. This is one of them.

ASEU actually has three or four campuses throughout the city. This is one of them.

 

An auditorium in the Main Building

An auditorium in the Main Building

Azerbaijan State Economic University (ASEU) has become like a second home, largely because I have amazing colleagues and my own work space in the International Relations Office (IRO).

America and Azerbaijan

As you can see, Azerbaijan and the USA have a close, friendly relationship (:

 

Unlike professors at any American university, teachers here are rarely guaranteed personal work space. There are department offices, but that’s where everyone hangs out for tea, to chat, and meet with students. It’s hard to concentrate in such an environment, so many teachers I know prepare their lessons at home. I, on the other hand, am extremely fortunate: Not only do I have space, but I have my own computer — not kidding. I can use the office printer too, a luxury. I can be productive, and have some division between ‘work’ and ‘home,’ almost like a real adult.

Yet I end up taking my work to-do list home most evenings. I’m regularly interrupted, but I don’t mind. I’m always amazed when my students visit. Wow, they’re stopping by to say ‘hi,’ I feel like a real teacher! Then I give them Russian candy, because what better way can I show my gratitude except through a sweet? Impromptu Azeri language lessons occur between me and colleagues regularly, and I hear the occasional request to proofread a letter or edit a blurb.

And since I’m in the IRO, students approach my desk and ask in Azeri or Russian if so-and-so is here, or if I can tell them about Erasmus/study abroad programs. “Muslim Müəllim is out now, but he’ll be back in a few minutes,” or, “The person you want is Afət and she is at lunch, but she’ll return before the end of the hour.” Of course I answer in English, my Russian is non-existant and my Azeri is nothing to celebrate. I also do it to see their reactions, sometimes baffled and amused, sometimes that classic deer-in-the-headlights look. I like being someone’s unexpected encounter for the day.

Anyway, back to the tour. If you’re like me, maybe you’ve noticed that the university building butts right up to this big stone wall.

Just like that.

Just like that.

And that.

And that.

That stone wall straight ahead represents the original boundary of İçərişəhər, or, the Old City (which I’ve talked about with plenty of pictures in this post and this one); some parts are reconstructed or older than others, but it is impressive. ASEU and several other Russian-inspired (i.e. pre-Soviet) architectural beauties line the main street, completely blocking the Old City walls. It was something I wondered about in the back of my mind, but I assumed it was the result of bad city planning.

It was a stupid assumption. My colleague indicated the wall one afternoon as we walked from the canteen to the office. She explained that, at some point, the Russians demanded that Old City’s walls be torn down to 1) make way for newer construction, and 2) erase medieval Baku/Azerbaijani history. The suggestion was made instead to construct new buildings right in front of the walls, enough to block idle gazes from noticing them, but without completely destroying valuable history. And that is exactly what happened:

Block the walls...block them!

Block the walls…block them!

Wall 2

Oil money enabled locals to construct too, such as this building, “Ismailliya” by I.K. Ploşko in 1913.

 

Wall 3

Old City — what Old City? Look at the fountain!

 

This perfectly demonstrates the indecisive Russification policy I’ve read about. The Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union, wavered between two opinions as it dealt with Azerbaijan and its other territories: Should non-Russians be forced to abandon their languages and histories to identify only with Russia’s? Or should some allowances of cultural autonomy be practiced?

So the Old City, a medieval-era symbol of Azeri power and source of ethnic pride, was forced to fade into the background while other buildings, such as ASEU, were constructed at the forefront. That’s good enough for a society struggling to maintain its identity in the face of a colonizer. It’s that option or have your history be decimated. (And some back home have told me that “history doesn’t matter.” Hm. This should give you something to think about…)

Another factoid about ASEU’s main building: it was built as a school for girls, funded by oil millionaire Musa Naghiyev. It was the first school for women in the area, in the mid- to late-1800s, just after Baku’s economy boomed from the first wave of foreign investment. I asked what the girls were taught, and it sounds like a combination of home and practical skills like reading and writing. For some reason, I thought about those young women multiple times in the week leading up to the start of the spring semester. I imagined their laughter and voices echoing in the cavernous, chilly hallways, maybe because it seemed too quiet without the intermittent chatter of teenagers.

So quiet.

So quiet.

Barren.

Barren.

The inspirational quotes were added over winter break.

The inspirational quotes were added over winter break. I can translate one for you. “Hər gün kitab oxuyun” = Read a book everyday.

ASEU Stairs 2

And here’s another translation: “Hər zaman gözəl sözlər danışın” = Always speak beautiful (kind) words.

 

But now young voices bellow down the halls regularly, and several of them are greetings aimed my way, “Hello, Hayley!” I encourage them to use my first name, I figure it’s good for them to practice a different name since I have to practice all of theirs…such as Günay, Əntigə, Fuad, Toğrul, Faik, and Ceyhuna. But I’ll admit that my heart thrills a bit when I’m called teacher. “Hello, teacher, how are you?” “Thank you for today’s lesson, teacher, we enjoyed it very much.” “What will we talk about today, teacher?” “Teacher, how long will you stay in Azerbaijan?”

I know it’s a simple title, but Jesus was called teacher (rabbi) in the Biblical New Testament by several who addressed him. Actually, if I’m not mistaken, several pioneers of religious movements from Buddha to Muhammad were viewed and recorded as teachers. I like sharing such a title with those great people.

Although the title is just about all we have in common. I teach conversational English to several groups of students that meet with me once a week. Those groups of students are also fluid, meaning that I see new faces weekly, others drop out forever, and some attend when they feel like it (like stopping by for the last half of class). It’s…interesting…definitely different from my personal university experience…and it constantly tries my patience. Taking that into consideration, and the fact that I come across a rather wide range of English skill (“Intermediate” is a very broad category and somewhat deceiving), I don’t take it upon myself to teach them brand new grammatical structures or introduce lists of vocabulary — that’s what their formal curriculum covers. Instead, I frame a discussion or class around a theme or activity, and give them the chance to use the English they already know. I like having that freedom, and I think they appreciate the change of pace.

I work in two different conference rooms. This one is on the top floor in the Honors section.

I work in two different conference rooms. This one is on the top floor in the Honors section.

And this one is right next to the IRO, on the lowest level. I hold my conversation clubs here.

And this one is right next to the IRO, on the lowest level. I hold my conversation clubs here.

There you have it, a little taste of ASEU. When my friend Esther visited, I made sure to give her a tour. “This is the kind of place I can see you working,” she said.

I daresay it is a good fit.

Until next time… (:

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To Be a Teacher

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. ~C.S. Lewis

My first semester as a Fulbright ETA is quickly winding down, and of course, I have musings to share with you.

Story #1

I give up. I made it 50 minutes out of 60, good enough. I slumped down in the chair at the head of the extensive conference table, “Okay, I’m going to let you guys go early. You keep talking in Azerbaijani and I don’t know what to do with you. You can leave and I’ll see you next week.”

I couldn’t sense much reaction from my students as they continued chatting and packed their things. One student lingered a bit and said, “Teacher, I was sleeping.”

No, you were playing on your phone, I wanted to retort. But I channeled my patient teacher side, “Ah, you feel sleepy today?” He confirmed and I asked why. “I was up late [half-mumbled word] my computer.” “You were fixing your computer, repairing it?” “No, putting it together.” “Oh! I see, you were building a computer. That’s very impressive!” I was honestly impressed, and his project reminded me that my freshman honors university students are very bright, and can be very motivated. It gave me hope.

Lesson #1

Ugh, but the way they acted…I just don’t understand – why would you take the time to show up and then not try? 

Then they took it a step further and many of them stopped showing up. How am I supposed to interpret that? Do they hate me? Am I the most boring person alive and they can’t stand me? Dear Lord, did I offend someone and they told their group mates and then they told their parents? They haven’t given me the chance to ask for feedback so how can I learn how to fix this?

I painfully learned the lesson that I, in the role of a teacher, cannot instil motivation in my students (I know that many people disagree with me). Additionally, I shouldn’t dwell on those who cease coming. Instead of constantly reflecting on those students, my concentration and efforts should be devoted to those who are the most consistent and show the most effort. I’ve always favored the philosophy of “quality over quantity,” and students are no different.

Story #2

This semester I taught 5 student conversation clubs/classes. To keep it simple for myself, I have the same or very similar lesson plans for all of them. One week I chose to highlight this year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. (If you don’t know who she is, get to researching her – she’s truly a special young women.) This covered several topics relevant to my teenage students’ lives: current events, youth, world peace, universal education….so many things!

In the end, some groups were more receptive to the topic than others (as to be expected), but I noticed a trend in every class when I rounded everyone together from the activity to conclude with a large group discussion. When I asked questions such as, “What does ‘peace’ mean to you?”, “Is it important to think about peace? Why/why not?” “Can humanity achieve peace in the world?”, the ambiance became hesitant and conversation stalled.

Every class, my breath hitched; oh, I suck I suck I suck I suck I suck I suck…and I nervously bit my lip, wary to ask my question, “Is this hard to talk about because you don’t know how to describe it in English, or because you don’t think about things like this?”

Every class, several voices piped up, “We don’t think about this.”

Lesson #2

I was SO relieved. No, my material isn’t too easy or too difficult; no, my topic isn’t boring everyone out of their minds. They’re challenged by this subject. Some of my best teachers and professors were the ones who stumped me – who challenged me to conceptualize the world and my life differently. It’s my job to assist what is there, not tailor to my preferences or paradigms. As C.S. Lewis suggests, I’m there to irrigate encouragement by introducing new things. I’m nowhere near as fantastic as my educators, but if my attempts make my students think differently, even at least for a short time, then I feel I’ve done my job.

To Every Student I Had This Semester

So fate has introduced us to each other.

Students 2

Through you, I experimented with classroom management and class topics, experienced the group dynamics and camaraderie that play a significant role in Azerbaijani university culture, and have felt some of the most extreme ups and downs thus far in my life.

Students 5

If you attended just one class, or faithfully joined me every week; if I co-taught as a guest, or was a permanent fixture in your schedule, be assured that you taught me many lessons.

Students 1

Every group I worked with asked that loaded question: “Why Azerbaijan? Why are you here?” I always answered along the lines of, “I fell in love with Turkey, and it led me to Azerbaijan. But I want to experience what makes Azerbaijan different, what Azerbaijani culture is and where it is headed.”

Students 4

Everything I observed and experienced during class time with you has contributed to my growing fascination of this place.

Students 3

I’m fortunate to act as a link between my culture and yours. Know that my impressions of you impact the portrayal I paint of Azerbaijan to my culture. The growing awareness and respect I sense from home should encourage you, and I hope I’ve been a good representative of the United States to you.

Until next time….  (:

 

To Be a Fulbright ETA

I’m getting real sick and tired of this “adjustment” period.

Seriously. When will it end?

Actually, maybe I should ask the question, “When did I start to feel out of it?” I mentioned in my first post written from Baku that I felt surprisingly at home. But lately I haven’t. What happened?

The job started. My role as an ETA (English Teaching Assistant) went into full-swing about a week after I arrived and since then it’s been a crazy ride. I’m aware that I haven’t delved into much detail yet concerning my role as a Fulbright ETA. Part of the reason is that my role is being redefined or altered almost on a daily basis. I want to know 100% what I’m doing, what I’m responsible for, and what people need from me. That way I can tie this concept of “Fulbright ETA” into a neat little package and present it to myself (and you back home) as a tidy idea.

However, that has not the case. And I’m begrudgingly realizing that that might never be the case during my time here.

Because of this, I’ve had some intense periods of frustration and angst, and some days I’ve felt downright weary (just being completely honest, not seeking sympathy). I sincerely thank friends and family (both in Azerbaijan and back home) who have practiced great patience with my venting emails, texts, comments, and Skype dates (especially since you all have your own crazy lives to deal with!). Additionally, I’ve had an on-going dialogue with myself concerning the amount of detail of those struggles I should write on this blog. I don’t want this forum to be a flurry of daily frustration but a resource for future Fulbrighters, especially those considering going to Azerbaijan. But explaining some struggles will doubtlessly be helpful, and I want to be honest about my experience here…

What to do? What do to?

Well here, let’s discuss my role, in general, as an ETA. I’ll list most of the projects that are either fully-functioning or in development that I have been asked to do:

At Azerbaijan State Economic University (ASEU)

  • Lead weekly conversation classes for 3 groups of Honors College students (at my university they’re referred to as “Special Talent Groups/STG”)
  • Lead weekly 2 conversation clubs for university students (still in development at the time of this post)
  • Lead weekly 1 conversation club for university staff (This is slowly catching on…)
  • Assist English department staff at 3 weekly meetings (at the time of this post, this has been hit-or-miss)
  • Help in various first-year business English courses (I’ve had a few days where I visited or co-taught classes, otherwise this is so up in the air)

Other Commitments

  • Facilitate a MOOC (online) course entitled “College Writing 2.1” and meet with participants weekly at the American Center
  • Lead clubs at the American Center (I keep putting this off, partly because my schedule keeps changing but also because, seriously, look at how much of my time is taken up already!)

Personal Goals

  • Intensive language study (I’ve concluded that I need survival Russian skills and I want to develop my Turkish/Azeri to an Intermediate level)
  • Side project I promised Fulbright I would do (still not sure what this will entail; maybe I can make this blog be my side project? lol)

All this on top of maintaining/forming lasting friendships, getting to know Baku as my residence, exploring Azerbaijan, and traveling. Plus having enough alone time to prevent me from going crazy. Oh, and I’m applying to grad schools and fellowships right now. Where’s my American coffee? Or should I ask for a bottle of wine?

I’ve been here a month-and-a-half, and seeing my list of things that are still “in development” or “up in the air” makes me squirm. I’m learning that I find too much comfort in having a consistent schedule. I would say Americans tend to like consistency, but I’m attached to it to the next level. I can be flexible and understanding initially, but I expect my kindness to be returned with consistency in a timely manner. I also like to commit to a select number of things and devote a lot of time to them, versus having responsibility for a dozen ideas/projects that I can’t dedicate time to. Quality versus quantity.

However, I have to stop and remind myself that I haven’t been here that long. This is both comforting and terrifying. If things get better and more consistent, then great. If everything remains as hectic as it is now, my time here will seem never-ending. Ultimately, I take comfort in the fact that I will adapt.

Indeed, I will adapt.

It might take some time, but I’ll be alright. A lot of people have affirmed this and I’m slowly realizing it now. I adapted to crazy Turkey, and that country occupies a special place in my heart. So even though I’m overall uneasy about my role as a Fulbrighter at the moment, some things will fall into place and make sense.

So, dear fellow Fulbrighters or hopeful applicants, let’s explore a challenge I’ve been repeatedly facing lately, and see how it illustrates (in my opinion) what it means to be a Fulbright ETA, especially during the initial months:

  • Develop extreme levels of flexibility. So I get all dressed up for the day and arrive at the school only to learn that some of my classes I just started are cancelled/delayed indefinitely due to scheduling changes. Wait, what, how long will it take before the schedule is figured out? Can the school really change the schedule 5 weeks into the semester? Oh yes, it can….if anything, expect the worst case scenario to occur – brace yourself.
  • Practice self control. Great, my classes are delayed for God knows how long; that’s not the most pleasant news to be presented after spending time preparing materials, brainstorming ideas, and worrying myself sick because I want to do a good job. With such news, I react by first becoming distressed and wanting to shut down, and then I’m consumed by anger and want to swear like a sailor, or lash out with ethnocentric comments. Of course, I can’t control internal dialogue, but I can (and must) control how I conduct my words and actions aimed at my peers.
  • Take initiative and be persistent. In essence, I have a free day now. I’ve gotten good at going to other faculty members and asking, “Would you mind if I joined you for a bit and observed your class?” Some people have taken me under their wing and I can discreetly hop into their classes whenever I want. Not only am I there as an English resource to potentially help others, but I’m learning too. Learning the topic they are teaching about (I’m at a university that emphasizes economics, marketing, and business, so a lot of this is new territory for me), and I’m learning new teaching methods and ideas. So even if I can’t teach for a day, I can at least learn!
  • You are part of the team. If anything goes wrong, I know that I am not the only one hindered or disrupted – everyone is affected. For instance, when I asked about the kinds of technology available to me, I was assured that having a projector and internet would be “no problem.” It turns out, it is a problem – hardly any piece of technology in the classrooms is up to the task. I was promised these things, I will demand to have them! Nuh-uh, not so fast! Everyone has to work through the bureaucracy and fill out forms to explain what is broken and why they want it to work. Everyone? Even me? Oh yes, no one gets special treatment and everyone suffers. But one gets creative when challenges arise; and if I’m plugging myself into a community, I’m committed to it for better or for worse – as part of the team.

To conclude, I’m sorry that this post was a snore but, some of you back home have asked about my “job” here. It’s a bit of a mess, but I’m navigating my way….perhaps this is what the “real world” is all about?

Until next time….  : )

First Days in Baku

Salam from Baku! I’m writing this from my little space in the International Department’s office at Azerbaijan State Economic University. Currently working on getting wifi in my apartment, which is why this blog has been neglected. But I’ve been here….six days – is this REALLY only my sixth full day here?? It’s amazing how staying busy and adjusting to new environments can make time move by so quickly yet laboriously slow. Ugh. But here we go, let’s get caught up with each other about what I’ve been up to!

Getting There

To get started: the journey to Azerbaijan. Originally, I was to leave on September 4th mid-morning. My first flight from Memphis to Chicago was delayed SO badly (weather, I guess) that I couldn’t leave until the next day. Now, this would normally be fine except for two things: 1) I was so ready to meet Azerbaijan. Talk about a let-down; to be starting a dream one year in the making, to be full of anticipation and hope….NO, NOT TODAY. Tomorrow. Tomorrow? Why? Why must I wait one more day? 2) My parents’ home is one and-a-half hours from the Memphis airport. So after waiting in line for well over an hour to reschedule my flight, I called home (choking back some frustrated tears), knowing full well that my parents were back in Jackson trying to enjoy their Thursday. My beloved father not only came back to get me, but he happily drove me back to the airport the next day – a total driving time of 9 hours over two days – so that I could get to Baku.

Once I was able to get going, it was pretty much smooth sailing. I had my last cup of American Starbucks coffee in Newark, enjoyed Frankfurt airport’s free wifi, and landed in Baku on September 6th around 10pm. Between the 24 hours it took to move my person from Memphis to Baku and all the time zone changes (Azerbaijan is 9 hours ahead of MI; 10 hours ahead of TN), I was slightly delirious. I mean, I could totally function and take care of myself, but I was loopy. I was one of the last people to get my luggage – speaking of which, look at all that I brought with me:

Yeah....it was a lot. The huge black one weighed 80 pounds. Oops!

Yeah….it was a lot. The huge black one weighed 80 pounds. Oops!

I wheeled all my stuff out to the main entrance of the Heydar Aliyev International Airport and met one of my main contacts from the university, Zaur. He and his cousin helped drag my things to the car and we whizzed off into the city. Bright city lights flashed by (traffic is pretty crazy here, I would say not as bad as Ankara, but laws are still mere guidelines) and, in my semi-delirious state, I talked with Zaur about everything from my trip to his job opportunities, and asked him to explain all the interesting things that caught my eye.

“Oh!” I suddenly interrupted myself, “Do you know what I’m doing at your university? Like what my job is? No one has told me and I’ve asked several times.” He laughed at my spastic conversation skills and said that I’ll do a lot of what the ETA did last year, including run conversation clubs for the staff and the students. I also found out that I’ll have my own little space in the International Relations department, and serve as a resource for professors and staff – basically, perform English teaching assistant tasks.  (:

A few moments later we arrived at my apartment. Zaur’s cousin took a couple sharp turns and drove into a short alleyway. My place is situated above a women’s beauty salon, and the stairway is located at the rear of the building (pictures to come!). In true Azeri style, there are no lights in this stairway, and I started laughing at how ridiculous my situation was: two guys dragging my outrageously heavy bags, and me fumbling after them with my carry-on luggage in utter darkness.

The door was opened, I was handed the key, and shown about the place. “It’s so beautiful!” I half-jogged through the living/dining room with my arms stretched out (remember, this is Hayley in a semi-delirious state). I was shown how to turn on the water heater, the AC wall units, and how to get out to my little balcony. I made arrangements to meet with Zaur the next day right before they left:

“1 o’clock, I will be here at 1 tomorrow,” he began.

“1? Okay, great – I’ll be here.”

“Actually, 2 – make that 2 o’clock.”

“Oh, sure, that’s fine too.”

“Well, between 1 and 2.”

“Now, when you say 1 or 2 o’clock,” I started to clarify, “Do you mean this like American time or Turkish time?”

He laughed, “You are in Azerbaijan, so Azeri time.”

“But will you really be here between 1 and 2, or is Azeri time like Turkish time so you’ll be here at 3?” I half-yelled the last part of my question down the staircase and I only heard more laughter from the guys. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow, I shrugged to myself, but I’m going to bet that Azeri time is more like Turkish time. And with that, I threw on some other clothes, turned off all the lights, and collapsed onto the sectional in the room adjacent to my bedroom (I was too tired to make my bed – sofa it was!).

Day One (September 7th)

I had a rather fitful night’s sleep. Actually, most of my sleep here so far has been that way. For some reason I’m just not adjusting well to the time difference. But my first morning I made myself get up by 9:30am to start unpacking. Plus, I really needed to shower. Talk about gross. Zaur met me at around 1:30 (literally between 1 and 2!). With his help I converted money, got a SIM card for my phone (so far working without a hitch, which is amazing because technology is NEVER this nice to me), pre-paid gas for my flat on a nifty machine, and took a quick tour of May 28 mall (largest mall in Baku, I believe, and a short walk from my house). This was all accomplished within two hours because I was running on crazy levels of adrenaline and efficiency, plus, I didn’t want to take up too much of Zaur’s time on his day off.

I had Zaur take me back home to help get my bearings, and a little later I met up with another Fulbrighter who lives about a 20 minute walk north of me. Back to the mall I went to meet Madeline and we shopped in the grocery store in the lower level. I stocked up on as much as I could carry (I still have a couple trips to go before I get all the staples and basic supplies, it’s these moments that I really miss my car!), and we visited each other’s flats. Conveniently, I walked right by the U.S. Embassy, which is right in between our places:

Looks forboding from this angle, but the courtyard is quite nice!

Looks forboding from this angle, but the courtyard is quite nice!

And that basically sums up my first day: getting the job done, exploring on the side. Boom.

Day Two (September 8th)

Before he left me to my own devices on my first day in Baku, Zaur extended an invitation, “The staff at the university really want to meet you, please come and visit us tomorrow.”

“Oh, yes, I would love to! What time should I arrive?”

“10 o’clock. Eh, make that 11.”

I laughed, “How about 10:30?”

So Monday morning I ventured, on my own, to Azerbaijan State Economic University (ASEU). I called Zaur to get me from one of the many entrances because I didn’t know which way to enter, which was probably a good thing anyway because I doubt the guards leading into university grounds would have let me in on my own.

One part of this gorgeous building. I believe this was built in the 1880s.

One part of this gorgeous building. I believe this was built in the 1880s.

Entrance alleyway.

Entrance alleyway.

Goal: learn how to say university's name in Azeri.

Goal: Learn how to say university’s name in Azeri.

I spent the majority of the day at ASEU meeting people (countless people…endless), touring the building (which is beautiful), and just establishing my presence. My colleagues took me out to lunch, showed me my own desk space, and kept me busy with talking – talking about myself, why I chose Azerbaijan, what they want me to do here. I was also informed how pretty I am; that I have a “bright face,” a “very sweetie personality,” and “big, blue apple eyes.” Overwhelming, yes, but what a warm environment!

Day Three (September 9th)

Tuesday was the briefing/informational day for us Fulbrighters at the U.S. Embassy. We had different meetings that dealt with our role as ETAs, general security, health, and a Fulbright alumna from last year paid a visit. She was actually offered a position at Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy (ADA) after her time there as an ETA, so it was great hearing from someone who was in our shoes not too long ago!

Our time at the embassy concluded with a trip to the American Corner, located a short walk away at the Azerbaijan University of Languages. An American Corner, I learned during the pre-departure orientation in DC, is the public face of a U.S. embassy/presence abroad. An embassy isn’t open to a regular citizen for him/her to learn about American culture or improve their English, but that is exactly what American Corners do; they are public spaces open and free to the public. This one in Baku hosts a multitude of conversation clubs, movie showings, classes, a kid’s corner, the list goes on. By the end of our time there on Tuesday, I had volunteered to facilitate an introductory academic writing course. More details on that to come – this post is too long already (and the details are still being ironed out)!

Days Four, Five, and Six (September 10th – 12th)

So the last few days have mainly consisted of me spending time at ASEU, getting to know the people, meeting more people, and trying to figure out what my exact role is here. Honestly, it’s been nice and I’ve enjoyed working on small projects, brainstorming ideas for my conversation clubs, and waiting for the dust to settle. My desk is the first one people see when they walk into the department office, and I can’t tell you how many times students and other faculty have thought that I actually work here and speak to me in Azeri! Entertaining.

On Wednesday, I totally got lost on the metro. That story deserves its own post, which will hopefully come soon.  (:

I’ve also been cleaning my flat, concentrating on the kitchen mainly. It’s not completely hopeless, but I haven’t wanted to cook in it yet. It’s actually been a good project for me, taking it a little bit at a time. I’ll post some pictures of my place eventually…eventually.

That should sum it up. Yes, I am alive. Yes, I am well. No, I am not married to anyone here (so no more worrying about that!). The adjustment, honestly, hasn’t been too bad. I’m expecting it to hit me later, maybe in a few weeks or months. But right now, is it weird to say that being in Baku, surrounded by disorganized city life, and constantly hearing Turkish/Azeri feels like home? Still mulling that over…

I hope everyone back home is well. Seriously, drop me a line – some of you haven’t contacted me since I’ve been here!

Until next time…  (: